SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was supposed to be a celebration but the joy quickly disappeared after a phone call.
It was September 18, 2015, and Brittany Sessions was hosting a birthday party for her son. That’s when she received a phone call from her cousin.
“My cousin actually called me and said ‘did you see that house where there were murders?'” Sessions recalled. “And I said ‘no.’ She said ‘that was your mom’s house’ and I said ‘what are you talking about?. What’s going on?’ And my cousin said she was murdered. I just lost it.”
Her mother Heike Poike and her niece were both killed. Another tenant in the home, Dakota Smith was also shot to death while he slept on the couch according to his father.
“She was killed on my son’s birthday,” she said. “So that’s a hard day.”
Sessions later learned, the homeowner allegedly went on a killing spree and shot all three. Back then police arrived at the scene to learn the grisly details.
“When officers went to the house, they attempted a contact at the front door (and there was) no answer,” said Richard Chipping with Salt Lake police. “They looked in the front window and they saw what looked like to them a body that was covered by a tarp.”
According to police, they went through a back door and found the three bodies. The homeowner, Alexander Tran was downstairs with a gun in his hand. He gave up without resistance and charged with three counts of aggravated murder. After Tran was arraigned a mental evaluation was performed and was found to be incompetent to stand trial. For the past five years, he’s been at the Utah state hospital seeking treatment.
Sessions said her niece, Lyrik, was only two months old. Her mother was raising Lyrik along with her older brother. Sessions’ sister was in prison at the time. She said her nephew was at school at the time or else he too would have been killed. Since then, she said the boy was adopted by a family friend and is adjusting quite well. But her mother’s death still haunts her.
“There are days that I think of her and I’ll just break down and there are days that I’ll think of things we used to do and that will make me happy,” she said.
Sessions said she also was raised by her great-grandmother but became closer with her mother during her teen-age years.
“Heike Poike, she was a free-spirited lady,” said Sessions. “She was a firecracker. She was a great mom.”
Her one regret is the final weeks of her mother’s life. Sessions said she did not talk or visit with her for a period of time and to this day, that still bothers her.
“That’s why I tell anyone to talk and visit your mother,” she said. “Because you never know if it will be the last time you see her alive.”
To this day no one is sure why Tran allegedly shot and killed Poike, Lyrik, and Smith. Some claimed Tran’s parents were upset that he had renters living in the home and wanted it cleared.
“We were mad,” Sessions said. “We were mad that we couldn’t get any closure.”
Tran may one day have to answer for the crime he’s accused of. And that day may be getting closer. According to court documents, doctors at the state hospital determined he is now “competent to stand trial.” Next week, a judge will conduct a hearing to learn more about their findings.